Fritz Perls is the founder of Gestalt Therapy and wrote about it in the 1950's. I was first exposed to this theory in graduate school. I absolutely loved this class because I find his work to be both applicable and relevant to most of life's processes. A key point in his theory is to always be in the here and now. Thoughts, experiences, trauma, beliefs do make up who we are, however dwelling on those as past events doesn't effectively bring change to the self right now. It is in the moment to moment, present experiencing of any of those that gets a person back in touch with it, then integration/resolution can potentially happen. As long as things stay out of awareness, they will constantly play out in our lives. (Other theorists, and main stream psychology call this the subconscious)
"From the Gestalt viewpoint the person is not merely a person who once had a problem, he is a person who has a continuing problem, here and now, in the present. Although it may well be that he is acting the way he is today "because" of things that happened to him in the past, his difficulties today are connected with the ways he is acting today. He cannot get along in the present unless he relearns how to deal with problems as they arise, otherwise he will not be able to get along in the future."
One reason many of our current problems linger is because they haven't been resolved in the present day. One can feel boxed in by their unawareness of both him/herself and of the external situation, leaving little room to maneuver. As soon as awareness increases, their orientation and maneuvaribility are also increased. A key component to this is to stop interrupting yourself! What do I mean by this? It's a simple courtesy, an accepted social construct, that most of us were taught as children, "Don't interrupt someone when they are talking." In the present moment though it may be getting in your way. We do this with ourselves all the time. Our intuition, our gut feelings, our past lived experiences, our desires are all wrapped up in our thoughts, words and actions. They will come to us in a second, or when triggered, when something has us looking back, or when a pattern repeats itself. How well do you listen to yourself? The moment you may not like something you are hearing from within, it is dismissed. This is the point of interruption, which is often followed by the but, should, well maybe, rationalizing, justifying self, which ultimately mutes whatever "it" was. It's a missed opportunity to a door that opens into you.
Some examples of interruptions (although they will be very personal to your personality) could possibly be:
"Stop thinking that way, it doesn't get me anywhere."
"I did that last time and it didn't turn out so good."
"I need to look on the bright side."
"I don't have time to think about that."
"My parents always say....."
"I don't want to let the negative in, think positive."
When a person continually interrupts him/herself, then expression is greatly limited. The Gestalt awareness technique offers three questions that could eventually achieve success with most people. In the moment you want to express something, to yourself or others, and you shut that thought off, stop and say to yourself, "Now I am aware," followed by:
1. What are you doing?
2. What do you feel?
3. What do you want?
(you can elaborate by asking two more questions)
4. What am I trying to avoid?
5. What do I expect?
These questions are supportive. You will only be able to answer them to the degree that your awareness makes possible. But at the same time, they help you become more aware! The total response may seem intellectual, but it will come from the total person and is an indication of the personality as whole. As you answer these questions, also be aware of what sensations you feel in the body, what your hands are doing, where there may be tension, how do you feel about asking them, how do you feel about answering them, why did you stifle the thought, idea or whatever it is you wanted to do. These clues are a window into the deeper part of yourself.
Many times in the therapy office I have heard comments such as, "I didn't listen to myself." "I don't know why I did that." "I know, I'm doing the same thing over and over again." "I'm tired of being anxious and depressed." "I know when I get out of this (or proactively do something), things will get better." If you keep interrupting yourself things won't change. Mindfulness, awareness and slowing things down actually help bring your truth into reality. Interrupting yourself causes more delay.
Looking out to the environment is not self supportive to bringing effective change into your core being. It is not a dependable or measurable tool to gage change that you want to happen. Bringing awareness within, to the inner dialog, is where transformation begins to happen. This week do the awareness exercise for an hour a day. In the moments where you notice that you interrupt yourself, stop and ask yourself the questions above. Hopefully this will lead to a discovery of something new about yourself. Write it down and track your personality for a week. See if there are obvious patterns that appear, desires going unmet, you find something significant you want to work on internally or you simply listen a little more closely.
"By concentrating on each symptom, each area of awareness, the patient learns several things about himself and his neurosis.* He learns what he is actually experiencing. He learns how he is experiencing it. And he learns how his feelings and behavior in one area are related to his feelings and behavior in other areas." (author note *this is not used in the diagnostic sense, but in the way a person is internally conflicted)
'The Gestalt Approach and Eye Witness to Therapy'
Fritz Perls, M.D., Ph.D.